Stillwater vs. Forest Lake

3 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 1

The peaks and valleys of high school hockey can be as severe as going on a thrill ride in a theme park. Dynasty programs one year can be bottom dwellers the next. Unknown programs, with little to no pedigrees, can rise to power in the blink of an eye, and disappear from the spotlight just as fast.

Stillwater had its run at the top for a decade or so starting in the mid-1990s. The Ponies’ role as headliners reached its apex in 2009 with a second state championship in two years. Then along came Hill-Murray, which took control of Class 2A, Section 4 to the tune of six straight state tournament appearances starting in 2013.

History lesson over. Other than to say today’s Stillwater team has that championship look of the Ponies from more than a decade ago. 

Stillwater’s signature victory this season was a 7-2 triumph over powerhouse Forest Lake on Dec. 21, an outcome that was stunning in its decisiveness. Lauren Einan and Alexis Huber each scored twice in that victory, one that has helped the Ponies (18-4-1, 14-1-1) garner attention as they've climbed to No. 7 in the Class 2A coaches' poll from Jan. 23.

Forest Lake will undoubtedly be fully motivated for Saturday’s rematch, our Top Game of the Week, and the regular-season finale for both teams. The winner mostly likely will be crowned the Suburban East Conference champion, a distinction No. 9-2A Forest Lake (18-5-0, 14-2-0) has held each of the previous two seasons. Stillwater, meanwhile, has finished no better than third in the last six seasons.

Forest Lake senior Brieja Parent ranks among the state’s top-10 leaders in goals with 29 tallies and has been held scoreless in just three games this season. She leads an offense that ranks third in the state with 124 goals. Parent scored both goals in the December loss to the Ponies.

Huber is Stillwater’s goals leader with 22 while Einan is tops in points with 43.